Illegal gun purchases connect Hesston to JCC

Posted at 10:36 PM, Feb 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-29 09:59:40-05

As a felon, Cedric Ford had no legal right to a gun.

Yet, when Ford stormed into Excel Industries on Thursday he was armed with two weapons -- an AK-47 type semi-automatic rifle and a Glock .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun.

"He looked like he was ready to go do damage. He had no remorse. He had his hands up, just bam, bam, bam. Just evil, he didn't care," said Melissa Torres, who was shot in the hand, hip and back during the shooting at Excel Industries in Hesston, Kansas.

Almost 24 hours after the shooting rampage, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms arrested Sarah Hopkins, 28, charging her with one count of knowingly transferring a firearm to a convicted felon.



According to the affidavit, Hopkins purchased the weapons from a local pawn shop in 2014. She later pawned the guns and redeemed them on February 5, 2016 -- 20 days before the shooting. In the past, she had given the guns to Ford.


"It's one of the two biggest ways people who are prohibited from having firearms, convicted felons and drug users, are getting their hands on firearms," said John Ham, public information officer for ATF's Kansas City division.

Straw purchasing is when a buyer who can clear a background check gets a gun for someone who cannot clear the same check. Federal law prohibits felons and drug users from buying and having firearms.

"A lot of criminals, when they get the opportunity to do straw purchases or have a straw purchaser, they will go that route because truthfully they see it being less risky than breaking into a house and stealing a gun," said Ham.

Frazier Glenn Cross, the man found guilty of murdering three people at the Jewish facilities in Overland Park, Kansas, was also not allowed to have a firearm.

Cross pleaded guilty in 1987 on a conviction of a felony possession of a hand grenade. He had John Reidle purchase a shotgun for him, which he used to kill three people in 2014.

"I hope Reidle did not know what was going to happen with that gun. I hope with all my heart he did not know," said Tony Corporon, who lost his father and nephew in the shootings.

A straw buyer breaks the law by lying on the ATF's Form 4473, which asks about the identity of the purchaser. Straw buyers, if convicted, face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Yet punishments are often light because it can be hard to prove a buyer's intent to hand over the gun to a felon.

Reidle was found guilty and sentenced to five years of probation.


Ariel Rothfield can be reached at 

Follow her on Twitter:

Connect on Facebook